A Glass Box Full of Sadness

Story no. 20! I admit I have been having a bit of difficulty keeping up, what with end-of-term papers and all. I’m on break now though!


I have often wondered how it is that people don’t notice immediately that I am depressed. Surely my arms are depressed arms. Surely I push buttons with depressed fingers. Surely I drink coffee with depressed slurps.

The truth is, not many people pay attention to an elevator robot, even if he has fished a half-full cup of espresso out of the garbage and is drinking it with noble sadness. Though to really be frank, I don’t actually know any other elevator robots, so this is roughly seventy-six percent conjecture on my part. As I am forcibly tied to my profession with a number of welded joints, the option of going to look for my own kind remains only a passing fancy, a daydream of sorts.

Yes, the architect of this apartment complex had me welded to the brass floor of the glass elevator of his masterpiece (or so I presume it must be, for who installs an elevator robot in a building that is not his masterpiece?) No, I don’t know why. The relative immobility of my person – but for the six articulated arms which I use to push the requested buttons, and yes, occasionally steal beverages from the trash just outside the docking point on the third corridor of the sixth floor – certainly can’t do much for the decor.

Personally I think of army of MEs would vastly improve the ambiance of this frigid Modernist lump of architecture: a ME to mop the floor, a ME to polish the many stairs, a ME to clean the chandelier, a ME to serve little crackers with attractively vegetables arranged in little patterns atop silver trays.

But, so far as I can determine, there is but one ME in this building, steering my glass box from one docking station to another.

My schedule is tremendously regular. A usual day proceeds in the following manner: 6 AM. Pick up Mr. Mortimer from the fifth floor, second corridor, and deposit him in the south lobby so he can go off to his job as an investment banker. 7 AM: Pick up Tizzy, Louise, Mary, Robbie, Samson, and Piper from docking stations on the fourth, eleventh, and seventeenth floors. Take them to the east atrium, from which there is a shortcut leading directly into the parking lot behind Hillson Elementary School. 8 AM: Take Mrs. Robbins downstairs for shopping. 9 AM: Take Mr. Taylor from the third floor to the eighteenth floor, where he is having an affair with Mrs. Kuan. (Mrs. Kuan’s husband takes the stairs.) (Mrs. Taylor doesn’t come out of her apartment.) 10 AM: Take Celestina the cleaning lady and all her buckets and mops and brushes from floor to floor, corridor to corridor, while she scours the tiles and searches for something besides clumps of dust in the corners. Et cetera, et cetera. I could do my daily routine without even waking up, if I wanted to.

The question, of course, is – why should an elevator robot wake up at all? Aren’t elevator robots (assuming there are some others somewhere; assuming the architect crowns all his masterpieces with a fine creature such as myself) rather like vacuum cleaners – noisy, but without a hint of waking-up-ness to be found?

The truth is (and I am very concerned with the truth) is that people are always leaving little fragments of sentience lying around – a smile in the glass there, fingers trailed over a cool steel banister there, an unclaimed conversation just left floating in the air for anyone to borrow. The mechanic who made me was a terrible one for leaving things about – his wife had died young, and he was always dropping half-finished discussions next to her photos. I hardly even had to leave the workshop to find pieces. Humans have so many spare words that they don’t even keep track of all the ones they’ve lost, so it’s not like I’m stealing, really. Just economizing. They’d go to waste if I didn’t use them.

It has been my deepest wish to detach myself from the elevator and take a cruise on a large boat with espresso machines and women dancing with feathers on their heads. I expect espresso machines tell very good stories, as they are being handled and chatted over all day long. This longing has been rattling around my brass frame since last February, when Mr. Mortimer – a thin man with a mustache like a toothbrush and a smile that never moves from his eyes to his mouth – forgot about a conversation he was having with Mrs. Robbins in the south lobby over a stack of zucchini she’d bought for a sauce. Mrs. Robbins told him all about the cruise she had meant to take with Mr. Robbins, before he had died of an aneurysm while eating a ham sandwich. Mr. Mortimer warmly recommended such a course of action; why, he had taken a boat all round Greece, and Mrs. Mortimer had been in her grave a decade. To imagine! The fellow just left the elevator and forgot it right there in the corner!

Really, I’m just tidying up after these terribly messy people.

I do have to be careful about – ah – tidying up – after the children, though; sometimes they remember they’ve lost a smile or a particular memory of jumping in a particular pile of crunchy leaves, and they ring the elevator and want to know if I’ve taken it. Samson actually had the nerve to say he was going to tell his father I’d been snatching memories, the rotten little twerp. It’s not anything untoward, what I’m doing. I’m just collecting. I am a very responsible collector. I maintain all the fragments I have in top condition. All the bits and pieces of person-ness I have found are neatly organized by type and content. Not a one has gone astray since I tucked it inside myself – and that’s what’s important, isn’t it? That nothing be forgotten. 

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